Money and kids. The one-two punch of arguments in a marriage. My husband and I are going over the budget. We come up against the following issues without actually fighting about them.
-- His nephew, Artist, an adult, who has been living with us for a solid year, rent-free.
-- The low five-figure cash account he has -- funded by jointly owned savings bonds, cashed in and ostensibly used for ski trips and other out-of-budget items.
-- The cash account I opened as a hedge when he started talking about separate accounts.
-- The money he gave to Troubled and Juvie, including $1,600 to pay off warrants, $1,400 for their "apartment" that turned out to be a room in some house of which they wouldn't even give the address, let alone let us see, and other surreptitious fistfuls of cash over the course of the last year.
-- The impounded car and who's fault it was (his) and how I had to use the last of the money I had inherited from my mother to pay off the car loan before it ruined our credit.
Each time one of these issues comes up, I will myself to sit silently. I start to say something, and snap my mouth shut before I do. Keep your mouth shut. Do not engage. My anger comes in brilliant flashes. The injustice, the betrayal, the hurt come flooding back despite months of protecting myself from all the feels.
"We could save a lot of money if we didn't have to pay your rent," says Mr. K. Again, my mouth opens and closes like a fish on a hook. We have to pay rent for me to live somewhere else because he drove me away with his drinking, his indifference, his refusal to be a husband to me and a parent to our children. Now he wants to blame me for our unbalanced budget. Nothing new here.
"If you move back here, we could save almost $10,000 a year." (By switching to Geico? I think, with an internal squeak of hysterical laughter.) "What do you mean?" I say aloud. At first I thought he meant that one of us (him) would move into PreMed's room now that she had gone to college. He watches me expectantly as I tried to envision it.
"God. I don't even really know what you are talking about. What would that look like? Would you take the room, or would I?" Thinking, how would we be separated if we lived in the same house? Dismay with a tinge of bemusement. Like the attorney who wanted to see us together in order work out our separation, he just doesn't get it. He was boldfaced and innocent and optimistic and hopeful. Imploring me silently with an almost desperate expression.
"I thought you might move back in. With me. Get back together."
I stare at him as it washes over me, what he thinks is possible that I would agree to.
"I'd like to invite you to rejoin the household."
Is he fucking kidding me right now? Reconciling. When a mere conversation about the household budget provokes decades-long anger and resentment and bitterness. The feelings that won't subside until we're really apart and can use that distance to get perspective, to start trying to forgive. But he is immune to that, determined to pretend everything is okay. He just wants it to be okay again. Just. Please.
I can almost hear his thought process, a waterwheel grinding the grain of blame and denial. Please just move back and make everything okay. Because when you won't (and I know you won't), I can blame you for being unreasonable. Look, Troubled has moved back home, she has a job, she is registered for school. All the things you were unhappy about are fixed. Why can't you come back now?
It's so much easier to charge me with the job of breaking up this family on a capricious whim than to accept his role in the collapse of our marriage. Easier to accuse me of walking out on our family when what I did was walk out on him and his emotional abuse. All that is far preferable to dropping his denial to the floor and manning up for the hard work he refuses to even consider that he needs to do.
Just please, he implores with his enormous and tear-filled eyes. Please let us be the happy couple in the Woody Allen movie. Please just be the blonde woman, very shallow and empty, with no ideas and nothing interesting to say, so that I can be the man with her, exactly the same way.